Hurt by the sight of plastic waste invading coral reefs, one man has taken on the risky task of clearing it.
Over the past eight years, Dao Dang Cong Trung, 40, has spent most of his spare time collecting trash along roads leading to Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang.
Trung’s zealousness to clean trash has even taken him to the bottom of the sea.
Like many popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, Da Nang, the country’s third largest city, has been hurt by waste generation and coral damage due to its tourism boom.
Trung said an ocean of trash including beer cans, milk cans and plastic bottles dumped by tourists are lodged on the sea bed.
Vietnam is the fourth-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution globally, a 2015 study by the University of Georgia showed.
Globally, eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, according to the U.N. Environment Program.
Trung, born in the central province of Quang Nam, started offering cruise tours on the Han River and in the waters off the coast of Da Nang in 2010.
Each week, when he carries tourists to visit Hon Chao Island, which can be reached in around 40 minutes via the Han River and the waters around Son Tra Peninsula, he uses the time to dive into the sea and pick up trash.
Many types of bottles and jars are located at depths of three to 10 meters among the coral reefs.
Each time he dives, he collects around 10 kg of trash. “I am not surprised to see the sea bottom littered,” he said, adding heavy garbage would sink while light garbage followed the waves, and the wind pushes them ashore.
“Mass tourism is affecting the local ecosystem,” Trung said.
He warned that without tighter management, Son Tra Peninsula may become the second Cua Dai beach, a popular destination near the famous Hoi An Town, in the near future, which has been suffering severe erosion and has lost its original beauty.
Trung said collecting trash under the water requires a lot of skills. In addition to good diving skills, it is necessary to be able to hold the breath for a long time and one must be aware of pressure because the ear is always affected below the depth of three meters.
“If you don’t know to regulate pressure, you cannot dive into the sea as the pressure will break the eardrums, nostrils and cause bleeding.”
He puts the waste collected into baskets floating on the water or placed right under the seabed. At the end of the day, he will take the baskets ashore and put them in garbage bins.